Step 7: Mindfulness

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For peace to arise, there must be mindfulness all of the time. Living with mindfulness clears the ground for wisdom of the true nature of things by bringing to light phenomena in the present moment, stripped of all subjective commentary, interpretations and projection. In other words, mindfulness teaches us to truly live in each moment. If we can learn to constantly focus our attention our mind, then we have the gist of the Buddhism.

Mindfulness is presence of mind, attentiveness or awareness, i.e., keeping the mind in the present moment. Yet the kind of awareness involved in mindfulness differs profoundly from the kind of awareness at work in our usual mode of consciousness. All consciousness involves awareness in the sense of a knowing or experiencing of any object.

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The goal is mindful awareness, where the mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. Mindfulness should begin when you wake up in the morning and continue until you fall asleep at night.

In the practice mindfulness, the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. The task is simply to note whatever comes up just as it is occurring, riding the changes of events in the way a surfer rides the waves on the sea. The whole process is a way of coming back into the present, of standing in the here and now without slipping away.

It might be assumed that we are always aware of the present, but that is just a mirage. Only seldom do we become aware of the present in the precise way required by the practice of mindfulness.

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Typically the original direct experience is overrun by ideas and the presented object appears only dimly through the dense layers of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.

The Buddha calls these embellishments since they block out the true phenomena; they let us know the object only at a distance, not as it really is. The deluded mind, cloaked in ignorance, projects its own internal constructs outwardly, ascribing them to the object as if they really belonged to it. Thus, what we know as the final object of cognition (what we use as the basis for our values, plans, and actions) is a patchwork product, not the original article.

The product is not sheer fantasy, but it takes what is given in immediate experience as its groundwork and raw material but adds something else: the embellishment fabricated by the mind. The springs for this process of fabrication are the latent defilements. The defilements create the embellishments. To correct the erroneous notions is the task of wisdom, but for wisdom to discharge its work effectively, it needs direct access to the object as it is in itself, uncluttered by the conceptual elaborations.kelly-sikkema-733050-unsplash

Mindfulness brings to light experience in its pure immediacy. It reveals the object as it is before it has been plastered over with paint, overlaid with interpretations.

To practice mindfulness is thus not so much of doing but of undoing: not thinking, not judging, not associating, not planning, not imagining, and not wishing. These “doings” of ours are modes of interference, ways the mind manipulates experience and tries to establish dominance.

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Mindfulness undoes the knots and tangles of these “doings” by simply noting. It does nothing but note, watching each occasion of experience as it arises, stands, and passes away.

In the watching there is no room for clinging; there is only sustained contemplation of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely and persistently. Mindfulness exercises a powerful grounding function. It anchors the mind securely in the present, so it does not float away into the past and future with memories, regrets, fears, and hopes.

When mindfulness is strong, the mind stays with its object and penetrates it characteristics deeply; it does not wander and merely skim the surface as the mind destitute of mindfulness does. Mindfulness serves as the guard charged with the responsibility of making sure that the mind does not slip away from the object to lose itself in random undirected thoughts.

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Mindfulness has the task to observe and to discern phenomena with utmost precision until their fundamental characteristics are brought to light.

Awareness is kept at the level of bare attention: one watches each feeling that arises, seeing it merely as a feeling, a bare mental event. The task is simply to note the feelings quality, its tone of pleasure, pain, or neutrality. But as practice advances, as one goes on nothing each feeling, letting it go and noting the next, the focus shifts from the qualities of feelings to the process of feeling itself.

Step 8: Meditation